How to hear remastering?

Hi. Remastering is a thing people/corps do. Other than a claim for added value to make something worthwhile to purchase again, I have understood there is something in it… but I really never been able to hear it.

Can someone please help me by pointing to some recordings and their remasters (or even multiple remasters), and with a few words point me to what to attend to while listening. Any genre is welcome. I am not a “gold ear”, but arguably a remaster ought to have enough mass appeal to influence anyone with a decent hearing and attention.

I was thinking also doing something like Jonathan Sterne has done with MP3 (2013), to subtract the original from its remaster and listen the ghost.

Thank you for helping me hear it!

I am also interested in what remastering aims at (besides selling you stuff you already own, creating market hype, and possibly new copyright), and what are some of the basic techniques. I can imagine filtering of tape hiss if the originals were on tape, maybe rebalance to better match mainstream speakers. Has something like Apple airbuds leads to a remastering frenzy, them being a market large enough to. I would guess smartphones, iOS, Android, Spotify etc “smart” (=active; non-neutral) media do some automatic remastering e.g compression, pump the bass, recognize Bluetooth headphones and apply a model-specific profile etc. Presumably many recordings from 1970 onward were mastered to sound good in an automobile, but now that the age of the car and petrocapitalism is finally coming to its end, maybe there is a wave of large-scale remastering to anticipate the transition to successor technologies such as bicycles?</speculative_fabulation genre=“pedalpunk”>

Is remastering ever done with/for artistic intent? Remixing is a thing of course in electronic music(s), but is remastering?

A passage in Macon Holt’s Pop Music and Hip Ennui. A Sonic Fiction of Capitalist Realism (2019, Bloomsbury Academic) which prompted this post right now:


A lot of mastering in old recordings (Going from mix down to what gets put on the media) was targeted at two things. First of all, the master should be something you can cut to vinyl, creating a record that sounded okay and wouldn’t regularly skip. Secondly, in those days people where listening on systems that tended to colour the audio and was mastered as such. A remaster therefore, at the very least, doesn’t usually have to worry about vinyl cutability (potentially requiring less filtering out and manipulation of the mix down), and expects to be played on a much more transparent system.

The other side of mastering is making copies designed for different media based on the distribution (one for tape, one for vinyl, one for streaming, one for download etc). Additionally the remaster will be sensitive to the listening environments in modern music (less on hifi, moderately in car, most on in ears from a phone). Finally the remaster might make aesthetic adjustments to either better match what the remasterer thought the original intent was, or to better match the expectations of a modern listener.


A very broad handwaving statement would be - remasters typically boost LUFS (Loudness units relative to full scale) levels to the modern day competetion ie. very loud!
However it is totally dependant on the artist, if they are involved, the mastering engineer and the target audience.

In general mastering technology, techniques and results have changed alot and constantly shift depending on market taste.

Biggest difference in a remaster I have heard in a while is:
Air - 10,000 hertz
Comparing the 2001 to 2021 remaster. The original master is highly compressed, which was the general sound of the 2000’s.
The 2021 remaster is objectively quiter, however has extended low end, the soundstage (stereo width) is wider and has a much larger dynamic range. The high end has either been eq’d to reduce problem frequencies in the original or the original track(s) we’re cleaned of excessive high end hiss/noise.

Another example effectively with no change. The differences i mention are extremely minor.
Michael Jackson - Bad
1995 - History
Objectively the loudest, with the most high end energy.
2003 - Number Ones
The quietest, with the least amount of high end energy.
2012 - Bad (2012 remaster)
Practically the same as History version, a little less loud

I would say no. They are just essentially earbuds/headphones.

Yes, and no.
Yes you can set eq’s and extra compression, but that is generally not baked into devices without access or an option. Yes some devices naturally sound different, ie. more compression, because of the DACs or amplification techniques they employ, but not enough to notice a drastic difference, especially when considering 99% of music played is MP3.

I would rather say, at the very basic level, the purpose of Mastering is to optimise the music for the widest range of music systems.

I would personally say in general a remaster would/should be done to make the result objectively sound better than the original. However that’s all subjective soooo…